I recently participated in the creation of a book about SEO named Critical Thinking for the Discerning SEO, where Sheldon Campbell, also known as Doc Sheldon, asked 31 internet marketers a series of questions about internet work focusing upon how critical thinking plays a role in what they do. One of the questions that Doc asked was:
If you could mandate just one change to the dynamics of search ranking, what would that change be?
In my answer, I described how Google might make search results more interactive by allowing searchers to decide which algorithm they might use to search with, describing different search modes that a searcher could use when they were looking for results that might be relevant to them.
I mentioned how a reference librarian mode might help me find informational results, a village expert mode might let me see answers from my friends or people who have some expertise in a subject, a buying agent may make it easier to find reviews for products, and a tour guide mode might show me businesses and services and history about a specific place.
So, I was excited to see a Google patent that was granted last week that seems like a step in that direction. It describes how Google might offer different search modes based upon a query showing some intent that a searcher is looking for a specific type of results. In the image above from the patent, one intent discussed is a “job” mode, which can allow people to search for jobs a number of ways, including by a salary that might be associated with a job, or employment within a certain location, as well as a display of a map that might show where those jobs were located.
In the image below, we see the results of a recipe search that provides a number of additional search options within the interface as well, including a list and a table view, ability to sort by relevance or “easiest to make,” and a dropdown that allows a searcher to further refine results:
Of course, Google does sometimes show a sidebar link to “recipes” these days that will allow people to search specifically for recipes that they will show when there seems to be an intent by the searcher to see recipes. It’s possible that the sidebar approach is how Google decided to implement the process described in this patent, though the patent hints at the possibility of a number of other “modes” that could be shown by Google.
The patent tells us that search modes might become available through a button, a query suggestion, a link or other ways. It also notes that some queries may trigger more than one possible search modes, such as a search for [cajun] where a search mode for recipes and another search mode for restaurants might become available.
The idea behind a job search mode seems like it might have been partly inspired by Google researcher Alon Halevy’s site Everyclassified.com, which he ran through Transformic, Inc., which Google acquired in 2005 or 2006. That site looked at the different collections of job records at different sites and how information was organized on those to draw them all together on one site. Approaches like that behind everyclassified.com, which likely inspired Google Squared and Google’s Relational Web and WebTables Projects, may play a role in whether or not we see a number of different search modes offered in the future.
Google’s metadata for rich snippets, such as the ones behind recipes may also make search modes like the ones described in the patent more likely.
The patent is:
Unified search interface
Invented by Dustin Boswell
Assigned to Google Inc.
US Patent 8,010,525
Granted August 30, 2011
Filed: January 12, 2011
Methods, systems, and computer program products feature determining a plurality of search result items responsive to a search query. A plurality of search modes are identified based on the query or the plurality of search result items or both. Each search mode is associated with a respective collection of records.
The plurality of search result items are provided to a user with an indication of each search mode in the plurality of search modes. User input selecting a first search mode is received, where the first search mode is one of the plurality of search modes. One or more mode-specific search result items are determined based on the search query, where each mode-specific search result item is from the collection of records that is associated with the first search mode. The one or more mode-specific search result items are provided to the user.
Making different search modes like the ones I’ve described become available to searchers through Google’s web search interface rather than adding more vertical searches and tabs for those searches, such as the ones you see for image search or local search or Google Scholar seems to make sense because searchers often don’t appear to choose those smaller but more focused searches by choosing the tabs for them.
It also doesn’t seem to make sense for Google to start adding more and more specialized search engines, such as a job search or a real estate search, but offering easy access to different search modes during a Web search when they seem like they might be appropriate could make searching easier for Google users.
Google metadata such as the metadata that they’ve developed for recipes may be one way that results for these search modes would start appearing in search mode results, and it’s possible that Google may introduce other “rich snippet” markup language for other search mode results. If Google published new metadata for job listings, is that something that you would use for your “careers” page or section if you had one?
The search modes described in the patent aren’t quite the kinds of search modes that I described in my answer to Doc Sheldon’s question, but I see them as a step in the right direction.
By the way, one of the things that attracted me to participate in the creation of Critical Thinking for the Discerning SEO is that a donation of $20.00 or more to a charity of your choice will entitle you to a free copy of the ebook. See the link to the book above for more details.